Seminar in Composition
Dr. Adam Johns
October 29, 2014
Superiority and the Golden Rule
In Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler, the Oankali view the humans of Earth as their trade partners even though we are not entirely sure what the objects of this trade are at this point. Throughout the first part of this reading, one gets the feeling that the Oankali carry themselves in a manner of superiority over the human species for their advanced knowledge and virtual rescuing of mankind. On page 81, we are given the view shared by many of the Oankali when Nikanj tells Lilith, “Ooan says humans – any new trade partner species – can’t be treated the way we must treat each other,” (Butler). This statement inverts our society’s Golden Rule; one must treat others as they would want to be treated themselves. I wholeheartedly disagree with Ooan’s belief on this matter and do not think that this is something we, as a society, should aspire to.
Ooan’s view of the treatment of trade partners is brought up when Lilith has difficulty learning the Oankalis’ ways and language. When this difficulty becomes too much of an inconvenience to them, Lilith’s wandering away from Kaal for example, they pressure her to have her brain altered to enhance her memory and make their lives and the process of teaching her easier. This issue of communication is often found in the United States, not only between its trade partners, but also with its high influx of migrants from South American counties.
While immigration, both legal and illegal, is a hot topic in current politics; there is a general consensus on how these people are treated. The United States of America is a melting pot of cultures and has been such since its founding. While there are requirements to become a citizen, we do not force our traditions on people. You are not entitled to pledge your allegiance to our flag or given a deadline to learn English. Instead, to make it easier on a large number of Spanish-speaking people coming into the country, we provide many Spanish translations on almost everything. Take a stroll through a supermarket and you are guaranteed to find translations on almost every box and set of instructions along with a Spanish food isle.
Since we are viewed as one of the leading world powers, and one with such cultural diversity, we are expected to have to resources to teach our citizens the ways of other cultures. When participating in foreign trade, the American trader is most likely the one communicating in the foreign language or has a translator to assist them with their partner. Though in theory America may be superior to other countries, we do not treat others as inferior as the Oankali may.
The Oankali’s technology is vastly advanced beyond that of the human species. It is this advancement that makes them superior to other species at least in the eyes of Oankali like Ooan. They are the heroes saving the day for humans and we are automatically indebted to them because we are inferior. Is this how the United States treated Haitians after their country was almost leveled by natural disaster? Or those suffering from the enormous influence of HIV/AIDS in Africa? No. They are given what help the US can provide in the hopes that if such tragedy befell America, the international world would lend a hand in any way they could. But we are not big bullies in the playground holding our assistance over the heads of the smallest kid. Worst yet, the humans being influenced by the Oankali don’t even know what the price for their assistance is.
Ooan’s view of the treatment of trade partners is not something that we should adopt. Instead we should, as Nikanj stated, “find ways through most our difference,” (Butler, 82). We as a society should hold to the Golden Rule of treating others as we would want to be treated and not hold our influence over others who are less equipped. As Americans, we believe that every human being is entitled to the same human rights no matter their geographic origin or level of intelligence in comparison to ourselves and this is the moral stance that we should keep.
Butler, Octavia E. Lilith's Brood. New York: Warner, 2000. Print.